Probably an innapropriate buy

(17 Posts)
Lilka Fri 11-Jan-13 20:37:23

Long one, sorry! But I'd appreciate any thoughts or insights or advice. I going to have to get this deleted soon as well, because lots of detail

This is a bit of an ongoing issue (over the years) with DD2. Not hugely serious, but something that niggles at me (or worries me a bit) sometimes

Years ago (she was about 12) she wanted the Sims 2 computer games (I hope someone's familiar with them!) so I got her the game, and since then a few of the expansion games for it. I looked it up online beforehand and it seemed like a nice enough game, nothing I considered harmful, no shooting, swearing or blood and guts etc. The original age rating was 7+, but later expansions have a 12+ on them

If you've never heard of these games, the basic idea is you create these simulated humans, then you can build them nice houses and control their lives (like jobs, food etc) and you can raise their little sim children and do school, university, have pets and so on. I've had a go on it, and it really is amazing how much you can do on computers these days

Anyway, everything fine with it at first, she got quite addicted, it's quite involved and she easily could spend hours on it, and still can. But at some points, she either makes her 'sims' do odd stuff, or get upset at bits of it, or even seems to act out certain things (like her past) with it, and it has made me wonder/worry quite a bit.

She has also done nice things btw - on this game, the 'sims' can adopt babies/children, so she made a 'me' and made me adopt 3 children and made a nice house and she's done more adoption families and she's showed me and seemed quite happy with it 'look, look mummy, they adopted too, and they're really hapy, look!" etc

But -

Lilka Fri 11-Jan-13 20:37:56

1. On this game the kids (and babies and toddlers) have needs like the need to eat, and it's possible to make them neglected by not feeding them. She has made several families (including ones named after her biological mum and siblings and herself in there as well) and made the adult/s neglect the children by not feeding them or hugging them or changing their nappies, so they cry all the time and smell and are really miserable. The 'herself' figure got so hungry she jumped into the outside bin and ate out of it sad And then a social worker appears and takes the children away and the parent 'sim' sobs with grief. Yes really, this game will do all of this, neglect/abuse and social workers and everything!!! Needless to say I did NOT realise this when I bought it, otherwise I wouldn't have got it for her. NOWHERE mentionned this. Acting out bits of her childhood with simulated computer game seriously upset her, although she chose to do it.

2. She made an adult figure of herself, and makes her have sex with all these people (yep, they have sex as well, under bedcovers with plenty of sound effects and even fireworks hmm ) Other kinds of abuse than neglect appear in her past, she still has always had issues around sexuality and I don't like her simulating sex with a 'sim' with her name and made to look like her, with like 20 adults in a row, even if it's an adult figure of her with other adults, who have to be 'in love' to have sex

After she did those things, I did stop her from playing it for a while, she was very angry with me, but i insisted. She started playing again about a year ago after over an 18 month break and whilst she loves it and does totally 'normal' things on it, yesterday she was again doing 'odd' stuff - she made a family and was 'abusive' and deliberately got their children taken away from them, then made those children get adopted by a 'nice' family. No one was named after real people this time.

Okay, so

- What should I do or say, if anything?
- Any insights on 'acting out' things using this (I guess it's similar to a younger child acting out things with dolls? The problem is the computer simulation is far more 'real' and graphic in many ways, full visual and sound etc) Do you think it could be helpful at all, or not?
- Was i right to ban it in the first place, or was it wrong to let her back on it?
She does a lot of completely innocent things on it as well, and has fun

I feel real guilty for buying it, even though I did check out reviews and even tried it myself before letting her on it.

And this post should be a heads up for anyone else thinking of buying it (or the newer sims 3 game) for their adopted DC's.

Chopped this post in two, because its so long blush

fuzzpig Fri 11-Jan-13 20:44:35

Poor girl sad

I know nothing about the adoption side of things but as an abuse survivor myself I think maybe, although it was a real shock to you, the game is actually helping her in a way? She is using it to articulate some awful feelings and memories that perhaps she otherwise couldn't express. Lots of people draw or write disturbing things (I did) so in that sense this is just a different medium.

Does she see a psychologist or get any kind of help to deal with her past?

SamSmalaidh Fri 11-Jan-13 20:46:10

The line you're drawing between odd/normal play with the game - is this distinction because your DD is adopted? It just struck me that all children would play the game in this way (playing out neglect scenarios, getting sims to have sex, kill themselves etc) so that in itself isn't an odd thing to do.

I don't really have any particular insight into the "acting out" element of it, but my gut feeling is that it could be a helpful thing for her - a very safe way of exploring what happened to her?

Lilka Fri 11-Jan-13 21:05:07

fuzzpig - yes, she has seen therapists in the past and got really useful help, most od that is not going on now, but she is finishing up a course of art therapy provided by the LA now. She has mental and emotional health issues, especially PTSD

Sam - well, I'm not really sure how normal this is, and how much other children do this. But because she was recreating scenarios that have happened to her and she actually upset herself doing it, it said to me it wasn't just fun playing around for her

SamSmalaidh Fri 11-Jan-13 21:13:40

Yes, of course the fact that she is upset by recreating things that have happened to her is unique to her/her situation, I just meant to say that making bad things happen to the characters or recreating things that have happened or might happen isn't an unusual way to play in itself. I played this game a lot as a child too and remember making many characters die or have children removed, and when my parents split up had a character representing my dad marry one representing my best friend's mum and so on.

Lilka so sorry that she has all these terrible memories etc and sorry for your distress at it all resurfacing like this.

YOU have not done anything wrong at all, so please do not feel guilty.

I can see the game might have some therapeutic help to her but might also hinder her. I would personally speak to a trusted professional who can help work out if this will help or hinder and whether she might need any additional support while she is playing it, e.g. a weekly session to see someone to talk it through. I am also not sure how she feels and wonder if you have had the chance to really get to the bottom of how this game makes her feel. If in the long run it helps her make sense of her past it might be good, but there might still be better ways for her to do this (I have NO IDEA what those way might be as this is all new to me, but maybe a survivors support type group or further therapy). If the therapy she had was when she was a child and she is now a teenager she may need to revaluate her feelings and responses in light of what she now knows (I guess) but as I say I am not someone who knows about this.

Whatever you do I would try and just be neutral in your conversations initially to get her to reveal how she feels, if you start in by saying you feel guilty for buying it or you think it is weird etc (no matter how much you do feel this and no matter how much this may well be true) then she might clam up. I know you know that so of course you are the expert of her situation but sometimes our own feelings of guilt ext can cloud our behaviour and you really have nothing to be guilty about, you are such a great mum.

Hope that you work this through. My DD is a total TV addict at the moment and we are working on limiting the amount of TV as it makes her grumpy and surely, (I know it is different totally) but I guess I am just saying kids can get addicted to lots of things and it is not helpful so limiting the amount of time would seem totally reasonable but IF you feel it is really unhelpful then it might be time for something else to fill her time. If she is really into art etc she could use her time so much more productively and maybe in the long run she will naturally gravitate towards this.

As you know I am not an adoptive parent and please take EVREYTHING I say with a massive pinch of salt as I know nothing but I do care.

Sorry when I said personally I meant that is what I would do in your shoes! Just my personal opinion, and when I said trusted I meant someone you can trust not necessarily someone you know but someone you can find who you would trust to speak to.

And that should be guilt etc not guilt ext!!!

Lilka Sat 12-Jan-13 22:33:48

Thank you Italian, and I don't mind if you don't have any experience, it's obvious you really care smile

I don't think her behaviour is wierd, but given her reactions, I don't think it's typical behaviour, and I'm not sure how normal it is for a child in her situation either!

I'm finding it hard with her not being in therapy any more (the art therapy is a private session just for her, whereas a few years ago we were going to a specalist centre which had lots of parent support as well as therapies for her), because I don't now have access to as many people who 'get it' or are experienced enough to really help. I think I might talk to the PASW about it, luckily our PASW is brilliant and experienced (I know, gold dust!!!!!) and maybe she can point me towards something or have some ideas

I am generally attempting to limit computer time, not just this but generally she just won't do her college work if she gets distracted by something else, whether it's TV or computer games. Just a bit of time in the evenings ideally. But she can get quite fixated on doing one thing to the exclusion of all else, so if she decides she wants to do sims, she will obsess about it until something else replaces it

Thanks Lilka just hope you will find some ways of helping her. Will pm you.

KristinaM Sun 13-Jan-13 11:58:51

I'm not sure what to think about this lilka, my first reaction is that it is worrying, will need to think more. It does sound like she is stuck in repeating the abuse cycle

adoptmama Sun 13-Jan-13 12:51:24

In a lot of ways I wouldn't consider it that unhealthy on its own; I think what it is doing is giving you a window into what is going on in her head. Clearly she has issues relating to past abuse/neglect that she needs to work through and it the repetitive/compulsive nature of her play suggests that she has not fully finished processing what happened in her birth family or managed to come to terms with it. Using the sims is, in many ways, no different from role playing with puppets in play therapy or drawing stuff out in art therapy. I think you are right to consider getting further professional input though because, whilst I doubt playing the sims itself is harmful, the fact that she is stuck in the same role play scenarios suggests that she is not dealing with her past trauma in a way that is helping her move forward. Good luck.

Maryz Sun 13-Jan-13 17:13:09

The trouble with this type of situation is that it's hard to work out what is normal exploratory behaviour, and what is "living her past" iyswim.

ds2 made a figure of himself and had sex as a sim with everybody he could, to have as many babies as he could when we had this game (I had no idea). He was about 10 at the time, and was just curious.

Both dd and ds2 did the neglecting the babies thing - but I think in our version the babies actually disappeared or died confused. I'm not sure, but I don't remember social workers or adoption being involved.

They do say that acting out trauma is a good way of "talking" about it without having to actually talk. That's what a lot of play therapy is based on - acting out scenarios with dolls etc. So from that point of view, if it isn't upsetting her, maybe it is helping her think some things through.

But (and this is a big but), if she was doing this as part of therapy, a trained therapist would be watching what she was doing, looking at how she was using the game, working out which scenarios were beneficial and which might be potentially harmful (I didn't like ds making dd look like a prostitute and have sex with their teacher hmm).

Is there someone you can talk to about this? Because if she is acting these scenarios out, then she needs to talk to someone about it.

I sympathise about the fixation though - once ds1 was fixed on something he would see it through to the end. Stopping him just made him more fixated and very anxious. And of course, the real problem with Sims (which is why I haven't bought any more and thankfully the one we had doesn't work on our current computer) is that there isn't an end, you can carry on forever. So there is no natural time limit and it is hard for her to self-regulate.

dd used to get very upset if she wasn't on for a few days and her sims suffered, so she was actually relieved when it stopped working.

Lollybrolly Sun 13-Jan-13 17:23:07

My DDS play sims and they are not adopted nor victims of abuse but they play the versions with babies/toddlers and have had the Social Worker come in to collect them.

They have discovered the WooHoo too and have done that - hence the babies.

Mine have even killed off their sims by taking the steps away from the pool once they have climbed in and built a "shed"/"Greenhouse" in the garden and taken away the door once the sim gets in and watch them die hmm.

They dont do this all the time. This is mixed in with the normal games/routines that they play.

They tend to do the extreme stuff when the game is getting boring or not going their way etc.

I hope to God my DC are not going to grow up to be murders or neglect their children - this is just a game.

I have no experience of abuse or adpotion so cannot advise you on that but wanted to let you know that my non adopted DC act out similar games.

Parsnipcake Sun 13-Jan-13 18:24:00

I'm a foster carer and both my birth and foster children live the sims 2 and do everything you describe. I have do far found it very helpful - when they recreate their family and the abuse, it gives them control over the situation and helps them see it's not their fault, but a process that applies to all families. Also, seeing that the neglect is not necessarily deliberate or evil, but that the families do not prioritise correctly can be a good point for discussion. I think like all things, it's about how you manage it. When mine play the sims I join in regularly so I can monitor it and use situations to help them role play situations, particularly friendships and managing schoolwork

With the Internet as it is, I'd much rather they were woohooibg their sims than sexually acting out in other ways too.

duchesse Sun 13-Jan-13 18:33:43

No direct experience of adopting, and I've read your OPs but I would suggest that your DD is processing her past experiences in her own way and in a way that sounds really quite healthy. The only thing I would say is that it be even better for her if she could talk about the things she is processing with you- you sound like a lovely concerned mum. That way would get the "normal" view on life from you.

Is there any way you can talk to her frankly about these things? (I only ask because children can be difficult little buggers to talk to in adolescence). She is on the cusp of adolescence and to me there are some real opportunities for immense amounts of healing flowing from all this role play. Again as a caveat I know nothing of bringing up an adopted or fostered child but it sounds as though you're doing a brilliant job.

Lilka Sun 13-Jan-13 22:36:14

Thanks all

Will be talking to PASW about it

I'm pleased to here that some other foster/adoptive children have got some therapeutic value out of it. But Maryz, you're right, I wish we were still going to the therapy centre together so we could actually talk it through with someone professional

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